Scientific Forum Urges
Nuclear Technologies Can Do More to Meet Food, Health, and Water Needs in Poor Countries, Panel Finds
by Lothar Wedekind, IAEA Division of Public Information
The time may be ripe for seizing new opportunities and setting more targeted priorities in the tough fight to gain funds and mobilize science and technology for the world's poorest countries, a panel of international experts agreed today.
At a concluding panel discussion today, experts at the IAEA Scientific Forum examined ways in which "sci-tech" tools, and particularly nuclear-related ones, could be better applied at national, regional, and global levels to solve the most pressing problems that countries face to meet food, water, and health needs. Previous sessions over two days had looked closely at problems countries are facing, and at ways in which nuclear and radiation technologies were being effectively applied in fields of agriculture, nutrition and health, and water management.
|"...technology should be a tool for develoment rather than a reward for development". - Forum's Chairman, Mr. V.S. Ramamurthy
The panel looked at the picture in the context of some big barriers being faced today, even though science and technology are known to be driving forces of social and economic progress. Problems go beyond significant economic hurdles, experts said, and extend to national, regional, and international policies; the role of science-based development programmes; the need for reliable technical expertise and support to sustain proven techniques, field projects and vital follow-up actions; and the critical networks acquired through cross-disciplinary partnerships and dialogue in public and private sectors.
At the concluding session, IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei commended the Forum's participants for providing "tremendously useful" insights to the Agency's work. IAEA-supported technical cooperation and research programmes are helping poor countries benefit from nuclear technologies that can accelerate progress at local levels towards the world's goals of sustainable development. The panel discussion was moderated by Ms. Margaret Catley-Carlson, Chair of the Global Water Partnership. Participants included the Forum's Chairman, Mr. V.S. Ramamurthy, of India; Mr. W. Stumpf, South Africa; Mr. L. Pinillos-Ashton, Peru; Mr. J. Vargas, Brazil; Mr. John B. Ritch III, World Nuclear Association; Mr. Jeffrey Sachs, United States; Mr. Din Dayal Sood, IAEA; Mr. James Dargie, FAO/IAEA Joint Division; and Mr. Peter Rickwood, IAEA.
"The time for outreach to donors is now," said Prof. Sachs, Director of the Center for International Development at Harvard University in the USA, who took part in discussions by video conference. International development strategies are changing, he said, because old models and approaches are falling to new strategies that are attuned to the critical need for science-based development. He was optimistic that sustained and cooperative actions would encourage donors to fund programmes and projects in health and other fields that seek to mobilize and maximize the benefits of science and technology in developing countries.
In summing up panel discussions, Ms. Catley-Carlson highlighted the importance of international organizations. The IAEA and other agencies need to keep serving as a "catalyst", she said, to help countries seek and seize opportunities, strengthen their technical capacities and resources, and form more productive partnerships. Many elements need to fit together, she said, for sustainable development to work in practice. Achievements at the local level are "crucial," she said, because that's where the problems -- and solutions -- affect people most directly. (Read a short interview.)
A report on the Scientific Forum is scheduled for submission to the IAEA General Conference on Friday, 21 September. Check WorldAtom's pages on the GC and Scientific Forum for continual updated coverage.